Pak envoy’s remark on war criminals angers Dhaka lawmakers

February 18th, 2009 - 12:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Feb 18 (IANS) A remark by a visiting Pakistani envoy that the “time is not ripe” for Bangladesh to try “war criminals” who are accused of atrocities on civilian population during the 1971 freedom movement has angered Dhaka’s lawmakers.
People who collaborated with the Pakistan government during the freedom movement are called “war criminals” in Bangladesh.

During a heated discussion in Jatiya Sangsad (parliament), Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s special envoy Mirza Zia Ispahani was asked to “apologise for his audacious remark”, New Age newspaper said Thursday.

The government reiterated its stand that the trial would be held.

“We have no option but to try the war criminals. The government is bound to bring the criminals to justice,” Speaker Abdul Hamid told lawmakers Wednesday.

Parliament had this month passed a resolution asking Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government to initiate the process of trying over 1,500 people against whom proofs have been gathered that point to their involvement in loot, rape and murders of the Bengali civilian populace.

“I do not want to make any comment on the comment made by the Pakistan envoy. But we will certainly try the war criminals,” Foreign Minister Dipu Moni assured parliament.

“As long as we are alive, the trial of the war criminals will take place on Bangladesh soil,” the speaker said, intervening in an unscheduled debate on the issue raised by Workers Party lawmaker and government ally, Rashed Khan Menon.

Ispahani is here on a five-day goodwill visit that is the first high level contact by Pakistan after the Hasina Government took office last month.

Dhaka should not expect any cooperation from Islamabad “at this stage”, Ispahani said Tuesday while responding to a media query on the proposed war crime trials.

War crimes is a prickly issue in Bangladesh-Pakistan relations as all the accused were either Pakistani nationals or armed bands propped up by the erstwhile East Pakistan regime to terrorise the civilian population.

Many of the accused escaped to Pakistan after Bangladesh became free.

Bangladesh says over two million people, mostly unarmed civilians, were killed during the nine month conflict.

Ten years back, Dhaka had expelled a senior Pakistani diplomat posted at the high commission after he made disparaging remarks about the freedom struggle.

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